Registered Nurses (RNs) can now be trained in Slave Lake, Wabasca, and other communities served by Northern Lakes College (NLC). This is in response to RN shortages in rural Alberta.

As of April 2023, NLC has partnered with Athabasca University (AU) to offer a two-year bridging program to train licensed practical nurses LPNs to be RNs. There is space for 60 students in the first year.

NLC students will join AU’s Post-LPN Bachelor of Nursing program.

The provincial government has promised $923,090, divided between the two post-secondary institutes, to help fund these seats. Students also have to pay tuition.

For years, Northern Lakes College (NLC) has offered the two-year LPN program.

A joint news release says, “The flexibility of online learning at both institutions allows students to work and learn from their home communities.”

NLC and AU will also work with Alberta Health Services to support the hands-on learning portion of the training.

The course will be offered primarily online, with NLC campuses across northern Alberta supporting students using its supported-distance learning model.

In the joint news release, Dr. Steven Johnson, Athabasca University Interim Dean of the Faculty of Health Disciplines says, “Athabasca University teaches more undergraduate nursing students than anywhere in Canada because our learners are attracted by the quality and flexibility of our programming. By creating even more pathways to a nursing education, we can continue to be part of the solution to the health care needs of Albertans.”

In the news release, Dr. Michelle Mitchell, Northern Lakes College Dean of Health, Human Services & University Studies says, “The partnership with Athabasca University offers a unique opportunity for our Practical Nurse graduates to remain in their home communities while continuing their nursing education. This opportunity provides an environment that combines the support provided by the university with the supported-distance learning experience students receive at Northern Lakes College.”

These 60 nursing seats are part of 8,000 new post-secondary seats in high-demand courses across Alberta, says an April 13 government new release. The programs chosen were based on workforce needs, learner demand and institutional capacity. Of these, 3,400 seats are in health care.

One of the groups lobbying for locally trained RNs was Big Lakes County. It sent the provincial government a letter in February 2023, asking it to allow NLC to train RNs.

Dr. Alex Clark, President of Athabasca University, and Dr. Glenn Mitchell, President and CEO of Northern Lakes College. The two post-secondary institutes have a new joint bachelors of nursing.

by Pearl Lorentzen

May 2, 2023